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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thoughts For A Rainy Sunday -- Control and Disposition of Anger

Hey Peeps --
Kept inside today for a rainy day.  Gave me time to think a few things over.

(1)  Anger Against Others.

I've talked a lot about improving self-esteem and cracking down on those who hurt it.  But as we've all tended to realize, yet not always wanted to admit, the person most responsible for our self esteem is OURSELVES.

Staying angry at people who've wronged us may initially feel like a tool of empowerment.  You can reinforce the fact that they did wrong and we did not, and that makes us feel like winners.  But if the anger stays, the winning feeling doesn't.  Instead, the anger eats away at you like a cancer, drains your energy, and leaves you feeling miserable and unlovable.

Trust me on this, I know.  When people wronged me in the past, going back as far as junior high school, I'd hold onto that anger for years, sometimes even a decade or two.  A name or a place would be just enough to trigger feelings of unfinished business and wrongs without consequences, and leave me in a funk I wouldn't wish on anyone.  And I'd feel sorry for those within earshot once I started my rants about how horrible they were, and how bad they were, and they don't even deserve to live in a homeless shelter, etc., etc. 

After I noticed that people who heard me do this would all, without fail, find ways to excuse themselves from the conversation, a relevation occurred:  When you're that angry for that long a period of time, people stop being sympathetic.  People stop caring.  People stop giving a darn, because it's unbearable to listen to you.  To use my sister's phrase, you've become a "desperado," who needs attention to continue being a victim, who just can't move on from whatever happened years before, and has stunted his own growth.

The secret I've learned was already in front of me, courtesy of my father's simple, almost Dao-ist wisdom.  When I'd go on one of these rants at the dinner table, he would patiently say, without the slightest trace of annoyance in his voice, "eat your dinner."  At the time, I'd get belligerent when he said this, because I thought he was trying to shut me up.  He certainly was, but he was trying to do it in a way that would teach me that the anger and rage I was feeling was not going to do me any good when a plate of my mother's cooking was sitting in front of me undigested.  Right at that moment, at dinner time, I couldn't travel back in time and suckerpunch the miscreant who'd aroused my ire, but I certainly good enjoy the meal instead.

Yes, the past happened, and we're all stuck with it.  But projecting it on others around you, who are actively engaged in the present moment, as you should be, does precious little to help things.  If you still have such an axe to grind, get a journal and write it out.  Or better yet, join "The Experience Project," or similar anonymous websites, and pour your heart out in a safe and comfortable environment.  Schedule permitting, go for a run (like me), lift some weights at the gym, or hit the heavy bag for a while.  If it's stuck in your system, then repair your own plumbing and remove it!

And once you're in that calm, chill, runner's high/euphoria state of mind, find a way to let it go.  It's not affecting you consciously, it's not costing you money, and it's not your obligation to seek revenge against them.  "Vengeance is Mine," saith the L-D . . .  because He's A LOT BETTER AT IT THAN YOU, and it doesn't make Him a nervous wreck to make it happen!  If what the gangsters or boneheads did to you them was as harmful and as treacherous as you feel it is, then good news -- they will, REPEAT WILL, get their well-deserved punishment when He thinks it's time, not when you do!!! 

And what if you're angry at someone right now, whom you know very well? Not so easy to let things go, but easier to change the game you're playing.  Get away from them for a while, do what I said in terms of getting it out of your system, and then deal with it calmly, the way my father reminded me to "eat my dinner."  Without being confrontational, explain what it is that made you angry, and ask for something better.  Chances are the other party may take advantage of your peaceful approach and start taking swipes and swings at you.  Don't fall for it!  They want to piss you off again, that's how they win!  Stand firm, and explain that what they did or said was wrong to you, and that they will need to cease and desist.

(2) Anger Towards Yourself.

This is even worse.  I can think of no better way to have a miserable life than to blame yourself for everything that happens, to continuously tell yourself that you're stupid and you just don't get it, and that you'll never be any good.  I don't care if you're in jail or if you're behind on child support, NONE of that is TRUE!  People can wag their tongues and diss you as much as they like, and you can just disregard it.  But if YOU do it, you're pushing yourself off a bridge.  You are the ONE person in the world who can NEVER talk trash about you!

Did you screw up?  Make a mistake?  Forget something?  Lose something?  Handle it this way:

Detach yourself emotionally from the situation, and research it as if it's data in an encyclopedia.  Look over the facts and ask some questions:  What did you do that could have been done better?  What mistakes did you make?  What flaws did you expose?  Once you've answered them, then without giving yourself the V-8 forehead slap (because you just detached yourself from your feelings), reprogram yourself to NOT make those same mistakes AGAIN!  Of course, that's not a guarantee that it will never happen again, but at least it will reduce the likelihood of reoccurrences. 

If you can see what you've done wrong, and the aggrieved party is still open to discussion, apologize for it.  Don't prostrate yourself on the floor, don't take a razor blade to your wrists, and don't flagellate yourself with a cilice -- the aggrieved party will either start disliking you even more, or start taking pleasure in the pain you're causing yourself.  Just admit you're wrong, apologize, and move on.  If they other person is mature enough, they'll accept your apology.  And if they can't, then screw them.  They're not royalty.  You can't do more than apologize, so if that's not enough, let them stew in their own anger and rage.

Whether you stay angry at others for too long, or you stay angry at yourself for more than a day, you're creating a situation of permanent victimhood.  Permanent victimhood means permanent childhood, because you'll never allow yourself to grow up if you stay angry.  Find a way to grow up and keep moving to the next stop on the route.

The Four Pillars remind us that we Exist, we Matter, we Belong, and we Deserve, but they don't state that we're perfect or that we're blameless.  They also don't say that the world is always evil and that we're always good.  They say that we are unique as individuals and that we have a right to be in this world, and to receive the respect that comes with being here.  Want to get that respect?  Control the anger and dispose of it when it is no longer nececessary.  Take responsibility for your wrongs, and move on.

And since it's almost 7PM on Sunday night, take my Dad's advice -- and eat your dinner!  :)

PS --- in the past couple of days, I've sent a few text messages that didn't quite sound as cute as I thought they did.  Internet/texting etiquette tells us that when someone responds to your message with the word "Nice," it doesn't mean "That was a nice thing to say, thank you," it means "I'll take that as a diss, you jerk."  So to those people I offended, I apologize.  I obviously didn't think clearly enough before I sent those messages, and I won't do that again.

THERE!  Moving on . . . .